European hamster is now ‘critically endangered’ and is just one step away from extinction, experts warn
- The wild rodent’s peril is highlighted in the latest update to the IUCN Red List
- Once abundant in Europe and Russia, the hamster has low reproduction rates
- Experts warn that the animal will go extinct within 30 years without intervention
- The hamster is one of 32,441 species the IUCN lists as on the brink of extinction
- New additions also include the North Atlantic Right Whale and a third of lemurs
The European hamster is now ‘critically endangered’ and is just one step away from extinction, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has warned.
Once abundant across Europe and Russia, populations of the European hamster — Cricetus cricetus — have declined as a result of lowered reproduction rates.
While female hamsters in the wild give birth to around 20 children per year last century, today they typically only produce 5–6 pups annually.
It is believed that the rodent will go extinct within 30 years — with possible causes including global warming, industry, light pollution and monoculture farming.
The wild rodent is one of 120,372 species whose peril has been recorded in the latest iteration of the IUCN’s ‘Red List of Threatened Species’.
In total, 32,441 species are known to be on the brink of extinction — with the North Atlantic right whale and 31 per cent of all lemur species now joining these ranks.
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The European hamster, pictured, is now ‘critically endangered’ and is just one step away from extinction, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has warned
The updated list of threatened species also represents the conclusion of a revision of the status of all African primates — concluding that more than half are at risk.
This includes all 17 species of Red Colobus — making it the continent’s most threatened monkey genus. The decline of Africa’s primates has been attributed to both habitat loss as well as hunting for bushmeat — much of which is illegal.
‘This IUCN Red List update exposes the true scale of threats faced by primates across Africa,’ said IUCN Acting Director General Grethel Aguilar.
‘It also shows that Homo sapiens needs to drastically change its relationship to other primates, and to nature as a whole.’
‘At the heart of this crisis is a dire need for alternative, sustainable livelihoods to replace the current reliance on deforestation and unsustainable use of wildlife.’
Experts found that 33 of Madagascar’s native lemur species are critically endangered, while all bar four of the 107 species being at least threatened — largely as a product of deforestation for agriculture and logging, as well as hunting.
Among the newly-listed lemurs in the highest-risk category are Verreaux’s Sifaka and Madame Berthe’s Mouse Lemur — the latter of which is the smallest primate alive.
‘Thanks to a very successful IUCN Lemur Conservation Strategy […] we were able to raise over 7.5 million USD for the IUCN Save Our Species Lemur Initiative,’ said IUCN Species Survival Commission Primate Specialist Group chair Russ Mittermeier.
‘With those funds, local organisations now work relentlessly to further ecotourism, to create new community-based protected areas and to patrol, re-forest, and raise awareness in schools and local communities on the need to protect lemurs.’
‘Although the situation remains very serious for the majority of lemur species, it is fair to say that some, such as the severely depleted Northern Sportive Lemur, might already be extinct had it not been for this investment.’
Experts found that 33 of Madagascar’s native lemur species are critically endangered. Among the newly-listed lemurs in the highest-risk category are Verreaux’s Sifaka and Madame Berthe’s Mouse Lemur, pictured, which is the smallest primate alive
The North Atlantic right whale — Eubalaena glacialis, pictured — has been raised from ‘endangered’ to ‘critically endangered’ on the Red List, with the population having decreased by 15 per cent since 2011 down to only 250 adult individuals
Meanwhile, the North Atlantic right whale — Eubalaena glacialis — has been raised from ‘endangered’ to ‘critically endangered’ on the Red List, with the population having decreased by 15 per cent since 2011 down to only 250 adult individuals.
Experts believe that the whale’s decline is being driven by both lower reproduction rates as well as fatalities through vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing gear — with latter accounting for 87 per cent of their human-caused deaths from 2012–16.
In addition, climate change is adding pressure to the species, pushing their main prey further north in the summer into a region with a higher density of shipping routes and crab-pot ropes, the researchers explained.
One notable introduction to the Red List year is the world’s most expensive fungus, Ophiocordyceps sinensis — also dubbed the ‘caterpillar fungus’ — which has been classified as being vulnerable.
The fungus — which only grows on the Tibetan Plateau and is a parasite of buried ghost moth larvae — is highly valued in Traditional Chinese Medicine, in which it is used to treat diseases of the kidneys and lungs, among others.
Unfortunately, increasing demand for the fungus since the 1990s has resulted in over-harvesting, reducing its abundance by around 30 per cent.
One notable introduction to the Red List year is the world’s most expensive fungus, Ophiocordyceps sinensis, pictured — also dubbed the ‘caterpillar fungus’ — which has been classified as being vulnerable. Unfortunately, increasing demand for the fungus since the 1990s has resulted in over-harvesting, reducing its abundance by around 30 per cent
‘The dramatic declines of species such as the North Atlantic Right Whale included in today’s IUCN Red List update highlight the gravity of the extinction crisis,’ said IUCN Biodiversity Conservation Group director Jane Smart.
‘Saving the fast-growing number of threatened species from extinction requires transformational change, supported by action to implement national and international agreements,’ she added.
‘The world needs to act fast to halt species’ population declines and prevent human-driven extinctions, with an ambitious post-2020 biodiversity framework which the upcoming IUCN Congress will help define.’
THE IUCN RED LIST
Species on the endangered red list are animals of the highest conservation priority that need ‘urgent action’ to save.
An Amber list is reserved for the next most critical group, followed by a green list.
Red list criteria:
- Globally threatened
- Historical population decline in UK during 1800–1995
- Severe (at least 50 per cent) decline in UK breeding population over last 25 years
- Severe (at least 50 per cent) contraction of UK breeding range over last 25 years
Last year, in the UK, several more species were added to the list.
- Atlantic puffin
- Long-tailed duck
- Turtle dove
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